The European Commission has fined Intel $400 million (€376 million) for hindering competitors’ access to the market through naked restrictions between 2002 and 2007. The fine comes after a long-running antitrust court battle dating back to 2009 when the Commission initially fined Intel a record $1.13 billion for abuse of dominance.
While some of Intel’s actions, like hidden rebates, were dropped on appeal due to lack of evidence of harm, the Commission upheld that Intel paid PC manufacturers to delay or limit products using AMD processors.
Specifically, the Commission cited examples where Intel paid HP not to sell AMD-powered business PCs to small and medium businesses through direct channels from 2002-2005. It also paid Acer to delay the launch of an AMD-based notebook from late 2003 to early 2004. Intel also paid Lenovo to push back the launch of AMD notebooks by six months.
While it’s great that fines are being levied for these crimes, the problem is that the damage is already done and a fine won’t actually undo said damage. Of course, there’s no way to know exactly what the industry would’ve looked like had Intel not committed these crimes, but I feel like quite often these fines are more seen as a cost of doing business than as an actual detrimental punishment. It reminds me a lot of speeding tickets – they can be devastating to somebody of lower means, but to the upper classes they’re just the cost of driving a car and barely even register.
I’d be much more in favour for not just fining companies that violate antitrust, but also going after the people within those companies that enabled and advocated for such behaviour through massive personal fines and jail time. None of the people involved will feel even the slightest bit of sting from their actions, and will do it all over again next time they get the chance.